Associate donations fill up hundreds of boxes to be shipped to troops overseas.
In a good month, Charon Rivers and her family produce about 50 gift boxes to ship overseas to U.S. military members serving in harm's way.
That's why she was taken aback recently, when she walked into a conference room at the Regions Center in Birmingham, Ala., and saw table after table, row after row, filled with items to ship overseas: Books and magazines, toothpaste and playing cards, boxers and T-shirts, crackers and Frisbees.
"You have no idea what this means," Charon says, wiping away tears. "We do our best to get out 50 boxes a month. Our goal is to get to 100. But there are hundreds of boxes here." In fact, by day's end, there were supplies for about 350 boxes – normally, a seven-month supply.
For a week in November, Regions associates at corporate offices in Birmingham dropped off items in boxes for Charon's nonprofit organization, Support Our Soldiers. The charity began last year as a way to deal with the aftermath of the family's grief. Marine Lance Cpl. Thomas Rivers Jr., was killed in a roadside bombing while serving in Afghanistan in 2010. Charon's family wanted soldiers overseas to get the care packages from home, to remind them they haven't been forgotten.
The response was enormous. Jillian Adams and Michael Carter, who spearheaded the drive for Corporate Marketing, were stunned by the amount of donations and needed last-minute help from other team members to get the supplies delivered in time.
"When Michael and I walked in the room and saw all the boxes stacked up, we were absolutely overwhelmed -- literally," Jillian says. "Michael and I spent a full day unpacking boxes and sorting by category."
"And, we received feedback from our associates about how much this meant to them to participate in the collection and to be a part of our overall Military Banking Program," Michael adds. "This was a good internal morale builder too."
Regions reached out to Support Our Soldiers after launching the company's Military and Veterans Pledge as another way to pair the words with deeds. Support Our Soldiers proved to be the perfect match.
In addition to the donations by Regions associates, Regions gave Charon a check to cover shipping costs for the next year.The boxes are packed individually for soldiers, with each getting something different. Also included is a card telling about Thomas and why the charity began.
"In the box, it says we lost our son and we are thinking of you," Charon says. "We hear back from a lot of them. Some go into great detail telling us about their lives and their time there. Others just say, ‘Thanks,' and that itself is enough."
The drive certainly helped Charon, her family and Support Our Soldiers. It will eventually impact the soldiers who receive the care packages far from home. But the event also delivered something for the associates who participated.
"For a mother who has lost her son, it's so much more than a care package drive or a holiday box. This is about her son," Jillian says. "This is something she can do every day to honor his memory. And to make sure that all those men and women who are overseas fighting for our country can have a reminder that the people at home love and support them."
For more on the Support Our Soldiers effort, go to http://www.supportoursoldiersalabama.org/latestnews.htm